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ceeding to outlawry when the demagogue had fled from jus- CHAP. tice, — and no farther step had been taken in the affair when he threw up his office of Attorney General. He resorted to this resolution when, after the resignation of Lord Bute and, the death of Lord Egremont, the government could not go on, and various attempts to strengthen it had failed. He He resigns then made way for Sir Fletcher Norton, who was appointed Attorney General on the formation of the administration, General, which was called the “ Duke of Bedford's,” but in which
Oct 1763. George Grenville, fatally for our colonial interests, soon gained 1763. the ascendency.
Freed from the trammels of office (as has often happened), Charles Yorke raised his reputation as a debater. Although his name Yorke in
opposition. is not afterwards once mentioned in the “Parliamentary His
Jan. 1765. tory,” we know from contemporary letters and incidental He connotices that he condemned the issuing of “ general warrants,”
Vartants, general but that he strenuously contended that privilege of parliament warrants does not extend to the case of seditious libel. On this last conduct of subject he gained the victory over Pratt, and rivalled Pitt governhimself, who was in the habit of exalting or disparaging the specting the power of the House of Commons, as it suited his purpose.
Middlesex We have a lively sketeh of the “ Privilege Debate” from Horace Walpole: “Mr. Pitt, who had the gout, came on crutches, and wrapped in flannels, but was obliged to retire at ten at night, after making a speech of one hour and fifty minutes; the worst, I think, I ever heard him make in my life. For our parts, we sat till within ten minutes of two in the morning; yet we had but few speeches, all were so long. Charles Yorke shone exceedingly. He had spoken and voted with us the night before; but now maintained his opinion against Pratt. It was a most able and learned performance; and the latter part, which was oratoric, uncommonly beautiful and eloquent. You find I do not let a partiality to the Whig cause blend my judgment. That speech was certainly the masterpiece of the day. Norton would not have made a figure if Charles Yorke had not appeared; but, giving way to his natural brutality, he got into an ugly scrape.”*
* Horace, afterwards writing to Lord Hertford, says: “Mr. Yorke's speech in our House, and Lord Mansfield's in your's, carried away many of the oppo. sition.” VOL. v.
CHAP. In the course of these discussions, Dunning, who had a great
spite against the Yorkes, made a violent attack both on the fang's ther and the son. “If I were,” said he, “ to characterise a late attack on great Chancellor, I should say that I cannot think he merited Lord Hardwicke the appellation of a patriot, having ever regarded him as a
arles decent, circumspect, prerogative lawyer; that he leaned, in Yorke.
his notions, too much towards aristocracy; that he seemed, in his politics, to approach much nearer to the principles of the Earl of Clarendon than of Lord Somers; and that, at last, upon what public principles I could never learn, he joined the opposition, after having been in all things with the Court for forty years before. I could never determine whether he had, or had not, a good conception of our foreign interests, although I always imagined he had a thorough one of all the domestic connections amongst us. I might ask whether his Lordship did not uniformly, throughout his life, pursue his own private interest, and raise the greatest fortune, and provide the most amply for his family, of any lawyer who ever lived ; and whether, during his administration, the judicial promotions were not disposed of upon ministerial motives, or agreeably to professional desert ? I might, nevertheless, and ought to add, that the same illustrious personage was blessed with a good temper and great worldly prudence, which are the two handmaids in ordinary to prosperity; that his whole deportment was amiable; that he possessed, in general, the soundest understanding in matters of law and equity, and the best talents for judicature I had ever seen ; and that he might be cited as an example, in this country, of the perfect picture of a good judge, which my Lord Bacon hath so admirably drawn. He was free from the levities, vices, and excesses which frequently disfigure men of a lively and fruitful fancy. His station did not require, nor his genius furnish him, with imaginative wit or eloquence, and, perhaps, had he possessed a true taste for the fine arts and the polite parts of literature, he would never have been so extensive a lawyer, - to which, however, the plainness of his education might have somewhat contributed. In short, we may say that Lord Somers and he seem to have been, in every respect, the reverse of each other.” After
wards he went on with the son: “I do not mean to forget CHAP.
CLI. that a certain candid lawyer united his best endeavours to strangle the habeas corpus bill; but then he did it in so delicate and qualified a manner, that surely he cannot expect to have his pass for a first-rate part upon the occasion. Ticklish times, or political struggles, always bring to light the real abilities of men, and let one see whether a man owes his reputation and rank to family interest, and an attention to please, or to real great parts, a sound judgment, and true noble spirit. People of the latter class become for ever more considerable by opposition; whereas the former, by degrees, sink to common men when deprived of artificial support, and should therefore never quit, for one moment, a Court; or if, by connection or chance, they are compelled so to do, should return to it again as fast as possible." * To Charles
Yorke's these tremendous sarcasms, rendered more cutting from being deli edged with seeming candour, Yorke is said to have made a his father. spirited reply, but, unfortunately, it is lost to us. We are only told that, passing over with slight notice the disparaging strictures on himself, he vindicated his father from all the charges brought against him. With respect to the abuse of judicial patronage, he cited the names of Ryder, Lee, Strange, Foster, Pratt, Denison, and Wilmot, promoted by him—"a series of almost sacred names requiring no epithets.” Of the Ex-chancellor's private virtues he took rather a lofty estimate; but his judicial merits, which it was impossible to appreciate too highly, he justly held up to the admiration of mankind. † · The Attorney General, on his resignation, appeared at first On bis reoutside the bar in a stuff gown, for he had not had a silk S
K office of gown before his promotion to be a law officer of the Crown, Attorney
General, and the practice had not yet been introduced of making the
in a stuff
gown. • This is one of the best specimens of Dunning's eloquence preserved to us, Although he was for years such a brilliant debater in the House of Commons, we can judge of his powers almost exclusively by the impression which they produced. It is a curious fact, that when he went into the House of Lords he utterly failed. Lord Mansfield and Lord Brougham are nearly the only lawyers who have succeeded equally in both assemblies. † See Law Mag. No. Ixi. p. 87.
CHAP. person so promoted likewise a King's counsel, so that he may
not be reduced to the ranks when he loses office.* He receives
But the administration now in power, wishing to soften a patent of the Ex-Attorney General's hostility to them, offered him precedence.
a “patent of precedence,"—to move next after the Attorney General for the time being — which he accepted as a fair mark
of respect for his professional eminence. Yet this was proAttacks claimed at White’s to be a proof of tergiversation. “Oppoupon him im
sition," writes a correspondent of George Selwyn,“ seems to for accepting it. be on its death-bed; the Yorkes have left it: Charles Yorke
has been squeamish, and would not return to his old post again, but kisses hands to-morrow for his patent of precedency. He has acted as most lawyers do out of their business, with as much absurdity, and as little knowledge of the world, as the fellow of a college.” “When Charles Yorke left us,” says Horace Walpole to Lord Hertford, “I hoped for the desertion of Charles Townshend, and my wish slid into this couplet :
“ TO THE ADMINISIRATION.
To make the grace complete, take t'other too."
Letter of SingleSpeech Hamilton censuring Charles Yorke.
In the same strain Single-Speech Hamilton writes to Calcraft: “Mr. Yorke's patent of precedency, by himself and crant: his friends, is stated as a piece of very disinterested conduct, but is considered by all the rest of the world in a very different light. His having a promise of being Chancellor is asserted and denied, exactly as people are differently affected to him; but the opinion of his being to succeed his brother as Teller of the Exchequer gains credit......... Mr. Yorke seemed to be so much ashamed of his patent, that he did not come to kiss hands for it on Friday, which you know was a crowded day at court.” †
While Mr. Grenville was in vain trying to tax America,
* To correct this in Dunning's case, when he ceased to be Solicitor General, Lord Mansfield, with the general concurrence of the outer har, called to him to move immediately after the Recorder of London.
† Dec. 1. 1764 ; Chat, Corr. 299. n.
and to extinguish Wilkes, Yorke, without supporting him, CHAP. did not very actively oppose his measures, and chiefly confined himself to his practice at the bar, which continued undiminished, although he was now without the prestige of office. Having won the great Downing College cause, a letter of Thanks to
C. Yorke thanks, in Latin, was forwarded to him by the public orator firo of the University of Cambridge, under a vote of Convocation, versity of to acknowledge his services, formerly in establishing their pri
Cambridge. vilege of printing books, and more recently in obtaining a decree by which a great estate was secured to them for building and endowing a new College. This testimony was peculiarly grateful to him, as strengthening the ties which for generations connected his family with the University which they had so much adorned. Soon after he was elected one of its representatives in Parliament.
On the formation of the first Rockingham administration, Aug. 25. consisting of most virtuous men, with the most patriotic in-1 tentions, Charles Yorke joined them,— resuming his office of formation Attorney General,—and, oh! if he had never deserted them! In that case his career might have been prosperous to its ham admi
women nistration, termination, and he might have left an unclouded name to co posterity. He did long steadily adhere to them, although he again Atwas fatally seduced from them at last. He zealously co- General. operated in the repeal of the Stamp Act, and the other popular measures of this short-lived government.
While he was Attorney General the second time, the writ His dexof error came to be argued before the Court of King's Bench in the famous case of Money v. Leach to determine the validity guing the
writ of of “ general warrants."* He was rather in a delicate predica
error in ment; for his own opinion, which he had expressed in par Money u.
Leach on liament, was against them, and Lord Mansfield, without
general absolutely committing himself, had intimated pretty strongly warrants. during the discussion an agreement on this question with Lord Camden. Yet, as counsel for the Crown, he was bound to contend that the King's messenger was not liable to the
* 3 Burrow, 1692.